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Best Pals Blessed Humans, Pets Flock To Feast Day Blessing

Sun., Oct. 5, 1997

When all’s well with the world, the lion will lie down with the lamb.

What happened Saturday was close: The house cat curled up near the hamster. Of course, the hamster was in a cage.

They and a couple dozen other pets were at St. John’s Cathedral on a drizzly afternoon, scampering in the grass or playing nicely in the fellowship hall. It was the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, the renowned friend to foliage and fowl. And to celebrate, these beasts were about to be blessed.

It was still early, though. Just a few folks were there, waiting. That house cat never did give the hamster a hungry glance, but it was narrow-eyeing a lanky greyhound across the hall.

The reason was likely the box of her kittens encircled by kids. One child whirred around. “This is Cream Puff!” 6-year-old Dixie Sampson shouted. She held a tiny, marble-eyed, quivering kitten. She’d hold it out for anyone who walked by.

There were plenty of kittens to go around. One made a break for it, zigging down the hall. A young boy held another, asking if he could keep it.

His mother, Robbie Newell, cradled her iguana with indecision.

Martin wanted a bunny, Newell explained, but their greyhound was trained to chase and ambush bunnies. So maybe a cat would be OK.

The iguana stuck out its pink slug of a tongue. “Her name is Gollum,” Newell said. “But I think she looks exactly like Dame Edna.”

The priests arrived. The Rev. Mart Craft said that the cathedral had been doing this for 12 years. “They do it in New York, San Francisco … all the big cathedrals.”

Soon, more pets showed up. The peace was shattered by yelping and mewing. Dogs barked at the kittens. Twin, black cocker spaniels told off a silvery, bearded terrier. It barked right back. A cat cowered in its owner’s arms.

A Shi Tzu rubbed noses with one of the spaniels. The other one jumped forward and snapped at the Shi Tzu. Outside, a boy rolled in the grass with a big, bronze dog.

Enough was enough. “Let’s gather around so we can get started,” said the other priest, the Rev. Ken Beason. Everyone did.

“The only reason we’re out here, in the rain, is because we love our animals,” he said. His own canines are like surrogate children to him, he told the throng.

Then, one at time, people introduced the pets. “This is Iwassa,” said Ron Large. “A greyhound. A racer.”

“This is Anabelle Lee,” started Sara Tinsley. “She’s blessed us with four kittens. We’re taking her to the vet before she blesses us again.”

Everyone chuckled. Shutters clicked.

The priest read an excerpt from Genesis. Then hymns. And a prayer.

“Let all creatures that have breath give you thanks and praise, O Lord,” Beason said. Then he blessed the pets.

Each got a splash of holy water in the face. And just as Beason began, it began to rain a little more.

Some dogs blinked and cringed at the blessing. Some just sat there. One tried to get away.

“You stay HERE!” a woman hollered. “You haven’t been blessed yet.” He’d be glad he stayed. Next came the treats.

“Who hasn’t received a blessing?” Beason asked. “Did the hamster get it?”

Sure did.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

Tags: religion

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